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Find Your Happy Place in the Moment

Recent studies have uncovered something surprising about happiness and attention.

Recent studies have uncovered something surprising about happiness and attention.

In one study, 15,000 participants were sent signals at random times during their day which asked them to respond to an in-the-moment poll. The poll contained a few questions like these:

  1. How do you feel on a scale ranging from very bad to very good?
  2. What are you doing?
  3. Are you thinking about something other than what you’re currently doing?
  4. Are those thoughts pleasant, neutral or unpleasant?

After gathering over 650,000 real-time responses the results revealed some interesting things:

  • In general, people’s minds wander about 47% of the time.
  • People are substantially less happy when their minds are wandering vs. when they’re not.

Perhaps most surprisingly, participants were less happy when mind-wandering, no matter what they were currently doing or thinking about.  This was consistently so, even when their wandering thoughts were more pleasant than their current task.

The researchers don’t believe that this means we should try to stop mind-wandering altogether. Rather, the results suggest that if we’re able to mind-wander less, it could substantially boost our happiness levels and overall quality of life. 

Mindfulness is particularly beneficial at work when worry and distraction drive up anxiety levels and drive down contentment, focus, and productivity.  Calming the mind and simply being in the moment without judgement helps to counteract this effect.

The next time you start to feel anxious, or even just a little dip in your happiness levels, mind-wandering might be the culprit. Try taking a moment to center yourself and observe your thoughts through this simple breathing meditation. 

  • Sit comfortably
  • Focus your attention on either your nose or your abdomen and begin slow, deep breathing
  • Breathe in – acknowledge the breath entering your body
  • Breathe out – acknowledge the breath leaving your body
  • Continue breathing – each time your mind wanders away from your breath, think calmly to yourself—wandering—and gently bring your focus back to your breath entering and leaving your body.

 If you practice this technique regularly for a few minutes each day, it can be an effective way to help anchor yourself in the present, calm your wandering mind and shift your mood to a happier place. Like any skill, mindfulness meditation becomes stronger with repetition. With enough practice, it can even become second nature.

CONCERN: EAP has been helping some of the world's most recognizable organizations bring wellness and resilience into their company culture for over than 30 years.

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